Everything He Had
Someone once said, “If success turns your head, then you were facing the wrong direction.” Not this guy; he always knew where he was going. He was listed at 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed around 233 pounds, but those stats didn’t measure his heart. His ticker weighed a ton. He was a good-looking guy, a big dreamer from a small Texas town and pure as the driven snow. He was smart, tough and some said so fast he could catch a shooting star. His mom Nancy was a saint and his dad Austin was a fan of westerns and sports movies. The story goes that Shane’s dad named him after the famous western movie entitled “Shane” starring Alan Ladd as the good guy and Jack Palance as the ultimate bad guy. His older brother was called “Gipper” and I will let you figure that out all by yourself, but here’s a hint: Knute Rockne. Every spring, thousands of wide-eyed kids tried out for their local high school football team. In case you haven’t heard, football is king in Texas. It was no different in Mathis, Texas, a place where everybody in town had the same thing, nothing. Shane Nelson not only lettered all three years as a fullback and defensive end for the Pirates, but he also excelled as a catcher on the baseball team and was a basketball forward as well. A 12-1 record his senior year, where he once scored six touchdowns in a single game against Woodsboro, propelled him to be chosen All-South Texas Fullback. He was also named to the All-Defensive and All-Offensive Teams and was presented the 1973 Mathis High School Athlete-of-the-Year Award. The next stop for Shane was Brenham, Texas, home of Blinn Junior College. Sure, some of the bigger schools had called. He was told he would sign a scholarship with Texas Tech, but that never materialized. Maybe his size had steered them away. Still he played and the longer he played, the more folks noticed. Shane earned a spot on the Southwest Junior College All-Conference Team at the linebacker position. By 1975, Baylor Head Coach Grant Teaff had successfully recruited Nelson for the Bears. Nelson hit the weight room, got stronger, and fell asleep each night in front of a projector watching film as his dreams got bigger in Waco, Texas. It’s hard to measure desire. Great athletes have the ability to put their bodies and minds in a place where most people refuse to go. “It’s like your eyes come together as one,” said Nelson. Your focus on success exceeds your desire for safety. You must be willing to give up your body to play this game. You don’t end up being a linebacker by mistake. It was only a matter of time before Shane became Captain of the Bears and later a member of Baylor’s All-70’s Decade Team. Shane was given one other job. “Coach Teaff wanted me to recruit Mike Singleterry to come to Baylor,” said Nelson. “He knew one of his team captains and dominant players could help influence Mike to sign with the Baylor Bears.” The rest is history. Two years later, Shane was invited to an open tryout camp for the Dallas Cowboys. Eighteen hundred athletes showed up but only one was offered a contract by Gil Brandt of the Cowboys, Shane Nelson. Nelson had run a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, but incredibly, he said “No thanks.” Baylor assistant coach and former Raider’s quarterback, Cotton Davidson, convinced Shane to tell the Cowboys he would think about it overnight. Davidson knew that Dallas had drafted a kid named Randy White that they wanted to convert to linebacker, and Cotton felt Shane would not get a fair shake. In 1977, Nelson signed with the Buffalo Bills, as a rookie free agent. In his first season, #59 led the Bills in tackles by setting a team record with 168 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery, in a 14-game season. The Bills’ players and coaches voted Nelson defensive MVP as a rookie. “That was an award I won three times in my six years at Buffalo (77, 79, 81),” said Nelson. He was also voted to the 1977 NFL’s All-Rookie Team. By 1979, the NFL draft would bring nose tackle Fred Smerlas and linebacker Jim Haslet to the Bills. These two along with Nelson would form the famed “Bermuda Triangle,” a place where running backs entered but never left. With the unique qualities of each of the three individuals, they were able to dominate the inside of the Bills’ 3-4 defense. In 1980, the Buffalo defense was ranked No. 1 in the NFL. He was always very competitive and set high standards for himself. Nelson could hit you like Mike Tyson hits a chin. Just ask Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Walter Payton, or Earl Campbell. His goal was to bruise your spleen, ruin your knee, and then stop the run. Giving this guy a helmet was like giving Billy the Kid a handgun, Tiger Woods a putter, or Calvin Borel a whip; something incredible was about to happen. After six full seasons in the NFL, Shane Nelson retired when injuries began to catch up. At a time when the medicine was not as good, a ruptured Achilles tendon coupled with major knee surgery ended his career. “I gave everything I had,” said Nelson. “My heart still wanted to play, but my body couldn’t write the check to play at the standards I expected for myself. The pride in playing the game and excelling on the field was my love and passion for the game. I didn’t play for a paycheck, so when I couldn’t perform at my standards, it was time to walk away.” Nelson moved back to South Texas after football and created Huddle for Success, a company that specializes in helping large companies set up strategic plans on how to accomplish their goals, both personal and business. There is no doubt that God moves people in and out of our lives. I met Shane through a friend named Mondo Camina. The only thing we had in common was our love for football, but that was enough. Two guys from different places became instant friends. Shane had a weekly sports talk radio show at the time and had guest hosts like local sportscaster Dan McReynolds and Camina. Eventually he asked me to join him and excited, I said “Yes.” This was my chance to live my childhood dreams through his experiences. “Shane & Andy’s Insider Sports” debuted in January of 1993. Along the way we took our show out into the public with the help of local businesses like Andrews Distributing, Pizza Hut, Special Olympics, and United Way. We were also able to bring some of the best of the best from the sports world to the Corpus Christi air waves. One October, I followed Shane and his family back to Blinn. He was being inducted into the Junior College Football Hall of Fame. I was proud to sit with his parents and his wife Shannon and kids. My dad used to tell me that the most important number in our life is not how many years you have lived but how many true friends you have acquired. Shane Nelson is my friend. He gave me my start in radio and expanded my horizons in regards to writing. He was there at my request at business meetings to inspire my employees and never asked for a penny. He signed autographs at both of my book-signing events. We have laughed until we cried and shared our sorrow for friends and family we have lost. The award-winning NFL Films became part of Americana under the leadership of the late Steve Sabol. Through Sabol’s vision, and his love for music, film, and football, he created the lasting images of this great game. He also used “The Voice” of NFL Films, John Facenda to narrate these specials. That’s how Shane got the nickname “Dr. No.” Facenda stated with Nelson at linebacker there was “No hole, no gain.” He may be the NFL’s Dr. No but to me and every other person, he has always said “Yes.” Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him atwww.purvisbooks.com, or [email protected].